If I didn't suspect that other people were grieving right now, I probably would remain silent on the topic. But I do believe that I join millions around the nation and around the globe as we mourn the tragedy that has taken place at Virginia Tech.
I know, I know. I can already hear the rejoinders saying "More people die each day in Iraq!" "More babies are aborted each hour!" I know this, and I grieve this as well.
But today strikes me in a different way, I guess, because these students could have been my students.
As someone who loves college-age students and hopes to dedicate his life to teaching them, I am distraught over what has happened. Students who woke up, rolled out of bed, and stumbled to class are now dead. Unrealized dreams, unsaid "I love yous", unknown possibilities snuffed out in what might be described ironically as a methodical rampage.
My heart breaks for the students at Virginia Tech. It breaks for the parents and family members of the murdered students. It just breaks at the senseless violence that has erupted, that continues to erupt.
I was praying on next Sunday's gospel "Peter, feed my lambs/tend my sheep/feed my sheep" from John's gospel. Having learned of the carnage, I brought my sorrow to my prayer and I tried to take it to Jesus. Jesus' question to Peter "Do you Love me" I imagined as being posed to me: "Ryan, do you love me?"
And, to be honest, I couldn't say yes. My heart was, and is, filled with such sadness that it's hard to find the place that love should be.
I have, for a long time, prayed for the grace of compassion. Perhaps the quiet cracking of my heart tonight is an answer to that prayer, the silent crumbling of the heart's walls that have until now kept me from feeling the terrors that are so much a part of this world. I ache for the moms and dads and grandparents and siblings of the slain students who may never have realized the fragility of life until this morning...and even then, so late...too late.
So please know that on this night I sit in prayerful vigil for those who have lost, and been lost, on this day. I pray a prayer of presence, of joining my heart to many others. Tonight I place myself with so many others at the cross of this senseless tragedy, gazing to the sky and through tear-blurred eyes wondering "Why" this has happened. No divine illumination, no sweet music marks this prayer. It is greeted only by silence, an abyss of unknowing, and the feeble hope that those who are in most need of grace and healing will find it extended to them by pierced hands.
Parents, if you haven't done so in awhile, please tell your kids that you love them. Kids, please tell your parents/family members the same. I would be remiss to think that I neglected to encourage this because it is so important